Autism Treatment that Capitalizes on Unique Characteristics

autismA new treatment method for children with autism spectrum disorder is attempting to turn symptoms into strengths.[1] Pediatrician and researcher at Rochester Institute of Technology, Dr. Laurence Sugarman, has developed a treatment method that teaches children with autism how to control their psychophysiology and behavior by using computerized biofeedback and clinical hypnosis.1

Sugarman’s methods are tied to learning how to self-regulate the autonomic nervous system that is highly alert for children with autism.1 This includes the fight or flight mechanism.1 Therefore, teaching these children to decrease their fight or flight response and increase the opposite would allow them to be more socially engaging and decrease the need for cognitive rigidity and repetitive behaviors.1 More importantly, it would allow them to feel better.1

Sugarman’s model underlies three ongoing projects at Rochester Institute of Technology, which involve different age groups: teaching coping skills to students with anxiety or autism; developing a computer-based role-playing game using autonomous biofeedback for teenagers; and creating a service and research program for family members with autism, called Parent Effectiveness Program.1 This program began this fall and will repeat in the spring.1 It trains parents of young children diagnosed with autism and measures the results of the training on the behaviors of their children.1 Instead of trying to change the symptoms associated with autism, Sugarman recognizes the symptoms as an effort to regulate inner turmoil.1

Children with autism are learning how to correlate the signals and visual representations that are displayed on a computer screen—the Dynamic Feedback Signal Set—with their emotions.1 Then, during therapy sessions, they practice changing their feedback techniques and learn to manipulate their internal wiring.1 Sensors are attached to the patients to measure respiration, perspiration, heart rate and variation, and blood flow and circulation.1

Clinical hypnosis is used to generalize and internalize feedback techniques, helping to discern situations and control their responses in daily life.1 A 250-year-old Western study of how social influence and internal physiology can be changed, mindfulness is important in hypnosis.1

Sugarman aims to make a difference in this population—the need is there.1

[1] Nauert, R. (2013). New Treatment Capitalizes on Autism’s Unique Characteristics. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/11/26/new-treatment-approach-capitalizes-on-autisms-unique-characteristics/62535.html

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